By Caroline Janes
I was recently tasked with choosing a topic for a website for a class project and I landed on albums as the focal point of the site. My goal was to explore albums in terms of how they function artistically and how they’ve changed throughout the years. Of course, I felt it was appropriate to interview an artist to gain insight on their thought-process behind creating an album. Bummerpop Vol. 2 ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums because of the story it tells, its ever-shifting tones and its sense of cohesion both sonically and lyrically. I reached out to Chicago-based musician and artist, Wavy I.D., to discuss Bummerpop Vol. 2 which was originally posted to my website, but I wanted to share it here as well.
Caroline Janes: How did the name Wavy I.D. come about?
Wavy I.D.: Wavy I.D. is an anagram of my artist moniker (and website): Wayvivid.
CJ: I really like your graphic design work. Is that what you’re mainly in to? How does your visual art work in conjunction with your music?
WID: I’ve been a visual artist my whole life. I studied printmaking with the intent of making tees and posters as a career. But I have been music-obsessed my entire life, and my style is as informed by art as music (and literature and film etc.). Basically, everything in life is in dialogue with itself, and my work evolves in tandem.
CJ: When did you first get into making music? Did you do music or art first?
WID: I got my uncle’s 83 Fender Bullet for my 18th birthday and taught myself to play and sing using tabs online. I didn’t really consider myself a musician until I played live, years later. I had been making art for bands for many years prior.
CJ: I saw you uploaded a few tracks here and there on soundcloud as far back as seven years ago. What were you up to then versus when you uploaded Bummerpop, Vol. 2? (Which released coming up on two years ago.)
WID: I started making music in college. I was in maybe five bands before Wavy? I went from shoegaze to psychedelic pop and folk. But I was just having harmless fun then. Wavy is a culmination of those years of experimentation, and my first really serious attempt at making something meaningful.
P.S., the Wavy I.D. name is a literal recognition of how we change as people and artists.
CJ: In what ways has living in Chicago influenced your sound or musical career?
WID: I owe much of my sound to my friends, and the music we’ve shared. Growing up surrounded by talented artists has always pushed me to be better.
That said, the Chicago scene (at the time I began Wavy) was saturated with loud, uninspired garage rock groups, playing every bar, every night. I was in one too. It was stale. I was frustrated with it, I felt like I wasn’t growing. That frustration compelled me to make something wholly different.
CJ: I can’t help but notice that your one and only album out is called Bummerpop, Vol. 2. Was there ever a volume 1?
WID: A Bummerpop Vol.1 exists. It is a posthumous compilation of unreleased tracks by my previous band, Soft Candy, released in 2015.
I titled the first wavy release Vol. 2 to remain in dialogue with its history.
CJ: What was the songwriting process like for Bummerpop, Vol. 2? Do you usually start with lyrics or instrumentation? How long did the recording and editing process last?
WID: So I quit my band and made a deal with myself to release something in six months, on my birthday. I booked a show two months away, bought myself a looper and began making beats on a friend’s Juno G.
The idea was to combine D’Angelo’s rhythm with Connan Mockasin’s cheeky aquatone. The songs all developed accidentally. “Thank You” was actually the first track I recorded for the record. The “Dinner” Trilogy followed, developing in the order it appears on the record. “I Wish I Could Fly” took the entirety of the recording process to create, as it had two guest spots (Alex and Max of Mild High Club) who lent tracks in their time off from touring.
The day came and the album definitely wasn’t finished. It needed more mixing/mastering/polishing. But I meant to keep my promise, so I made a bandcamp and uploaded it.
CJ: What were you hoping to achieve with its release?
WID: Honestly? I just wanted people to notice me.
CJ: Is Bummerpop, Vol. 2 based on your personal experiences?
WID: Oh, absolutely. I meant every word.
CJ: How do you feel when you listen to Bummerpop, Vol. 2 and how do you envision listeners feeling? What feelings are you trying to evoke with Bummerpop, Vol. 2?
WID: My philosophy about art is that it ceases to be the artist’s once it’s released to the public. As personal as the album is, I listen to it now as if it is not my own– like it’s a case study of a certain demographic in a specific space and time.
I hoped to make something saccharine, ironic, playful, honest. I wanted to share my brain in ways I could never. I’d like to think I succeeded, and that the album is relatable.
CJ: Do you think the songs work best together or standing alone?
WID: Vol. 2 is a narrative, and therefore, in my opinion, functions better as a whole. I’ll use dinner as an analogy: one track is mashed potatoes, another is gravy, and another is baked beans, etc.
CJ: I like how lighthearted “I Like Dessert” is. Any particular story behind that track?
WID: I had just recorded “Vodka and Lemon,” and “Dinner at My Place” prior to that, and figured I ought to make it a trilogy. I had been listening to Prince. I was in a silly mood.
I said “I like dessert / I like to flirt” as a joke on myself and the process of writing smart, sincere “sex music.” Magically, that joke became the genesis of the song. So I spent the night thinking up raunchy dessert innuendos. It was definitely the most fun song to record, so it makes sense that that whimsy is reflected in the song itself.
CJ: The mood of the album shifts between the tracks “I Like Dessert” and “I Wish I Could Fly.” What were you trying to evoke or say with this change?
WID: Bummerpop Vol. 2 is a soliloquy sung by a poor, lonely millennial. It begins as a dream, accelerates, descends into angst, reconciles with itself, and drifts back to sleep. The dramatic change between the two songs you mentioned I think accurately resembles the plunge from high to low we often feel.
CJ: How did the collaborations with Chet Baker, Mild High Club and Paul Cherry come about?
WID: We’ve all known each other via Chicago for years. I grew up with Alex and Max of Mild High Club. I met Paul through Alex. Max is my current roommate. We’ve been a part of intertwined narratives for a decade now.
CJ: What was the inspiration behind including Ella Fitzgerald’s “Blue Room” cover? Why did you choose Chet Faker to sing it instead of yourself?
WID: Chet’s a better singer than I. I stumbled totally randomly upon this acapella of his and thought to throw it atop a beat I had with no vocals. Again, magically, it fit perfectly. RIP.
CJ: Do you think it’s important for albums to have a sense of cohesion? What factors make for a good album as a musician and also from a listener perspective?
WID: All art has movement, a beginning, middle, and end. An overall idea, and its components. Albums, like books, have titles and chapters. I personally find a thoughtfully constructed narrative more engaging than its opposite.
CJ: Do you prefer vodka and lemon or tequila and lime?
WID: Always Tequila. P.S. listen to “Doopee Time” by The Doopees.
Featured image via Wavy I.D.